Living in Society

Bohannan is a Compassionate, Knowledgeable Leader

Christina Bohannan – Photo Credit Bohannan for Congress

Control of the U.S. House of Representatives could boil down to whether Christina Bohannan beats incumbent Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa’s First Congressional District on Nov. 8. I’m voting for Bohannan. You should, too.

I met Bohannan before the pandemic at a coffee shop in Iowa City. My first impression was she was smart and engaged. As I’ve gotten to know her, she proved to be a compassionate, knowledgeable leader: the kind we need in the Congress. She will represent every district resident.

Her opponent made a case to elect Bohannan by going off the deep end once she got to Washington, D.C. Miller-Meeks quickly swallowed the extreme Republican Party narrative hook, line, and sinker. Bohannan remains a normal Iowan. There is value in that.

Like former Congressman Dave Loebsack, Bohannan is a college professor. She is a current colleague with former Congressman Jim Leach at the University of Iowa College of Law. Both have endorsed her. She is a mother and a state representative. What else is there to say?

Christina Bohannan is the Democrat in this race. That may be enough to earn our vote on Nov. 8: a Congresswoman who listens to and acts on behalf of all constituents.

~ First published in the Southeast Iowa Union on Sept. 20, 2022.

Living in Society

Midterms Home Stretch

We had already entered the fall campaigns after Labor Day. Seven days of summer remain and there are 53 days until the midterm election when a lot rides on the outcome. Will it be a fair election? We hope so.

In Iowa, where Republicans dominate the political landscape, Secretary of State Paul Pate prides himself on following election rules. As long as Republicans win, I don’t anticipate any funny business counting votes. Lately, especially after the recruitment of church-going folk to register and vote, Republicans tend to turn out.

Four congressional seats plus one U.S. Senate seat are on Iowa ballots. Most voters are interested in federal races. Pollsters and political prognosticators I read show Iowa favoring Republicans. Democratic candidates in these races have other ideas. It is conceivable there will be close races, yet Democrats are all playing catch-up.

After the Democratic build up to the 2016 and 2018 elections, and the subsequent deflating when Republicans won by a lot, I’m not hopeful. In 2020, my precinct in Johnson County turned solidly Republican. Iowa is returning to its Republican roots, although it is not the same Republican party as it was when Robert Ray held the governorship for 14 years.

My main volunteer work this cycle have been writing letters to the editors of newspapers and financial donations from a limited budget. I do not attend a lot of fund raisers because my funds are spent the day after my pension hits the bank. I wrote post cards to voters a couple of times. I attend meetings of the Johnson and Iowa County Democratic central committees. I am getting too old for door knocking and telephone canvassing. I stay busy with politics, but it’s different from when I re-activated after the 2004 Iowa Precinct caucuses. As a septuagenarian, I slowed down.

As we head into the home stretch, a large majority of voters have made up their minds and are simply waiting to vote. The rest of the campaign involves finding those who haven’t decided and persuading them to vote for our candidate. Candidates who do a good job of that have a chance to win. If they aren’t organized to do so, they don’t. It’s pretty cut and dried.

I retain hope Democrats will win some races. Some of the local races have Democrats running unopposed: County Attorney, County Treasurer, and County Recorder. It’s time to do what good we can before polls close on Nov. 8.

Living in Society

Push Poll Comes to Big Grove

Kinney is the Democrat running in Iowa Senate District 46.

I hadn’t received a push poll telephone call until yesterday. I participated in the whole thing, yet it was terrible. The pollster must have been seeking dim-witted jamokes to persuade voters of the efficacy of their chosen candidate, in this case Dawn Driscoll, who is running against Kevin Kinney for the Iowa Senate in District 46.

Driscoll did almost no visible campaigning before Labor Day. A few campaign signs appeared along major thoroughfares after that. She recently held an event with Governor Kim Reynolds and Congresswomen Mariannette Miller-Meeks. If her campaign begins with a push poll, there is no telling how much mudslinging there will be from Republicans before the Nov. 8 election.

“A push poll is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, in which an individual or organization attempts to manipulate or alter prospective voters’ views under the guise of conducting an opinion poll,” according to Wikipedia. The key word here is “manipulate.” This poll attempted to manipulate me by misrepresenting Kinney’s positions. Because I know better, the sole alteration of my views of the campaigns was to reaffirm support for him.

I’ve been represented by Democrats in the Iowa Senate since we moved here, notably with the long tenure of Senator Bob Dvorsky (1993-2018), followed by Zach Wahls (2019-present) after Dvorsky’s retirement. It is only with the recently completed decennial redistricting we have to contemplate a Republican representing us. While the urban centers in the county remain strongly Democratic, Republicans have been able to peel off a few precincts around the central cities.

The contest with a new district that leans Republican is proving to be the worst of modern politics for regular voters like me. Push polling is just the tip of the iceberg of the Republican threat.


Approaching Danger

Flood water from Lake Macbride reached within 600 feet of our home on June 14, 2008

We did not fear the 2008 flood, even though it rendered roads and bridges near us impassible and destroyed significant parts of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. There was a lesson to be learned from it.

As the water level rose, flowed over the Coralville Dam spillway on June 10, then back-filled Lake Macbride, it would have taken much more than there was to flood our home near the lake. When the flood crested on June 15, we were relieved.

Lake Macbride is part of the water storage system for the Coralville dam and the reservoir created behind it. 2008 flooding was greater than any in recorded history, yet the system worked as well as it could have given the volume of water. Because news media were focused on the natural disaster, we had plenty of information upon which to make decisions: Should we sand bag the house? Should we move everything to the upper level? Should we evacuate? By closely monitoring the news, we were able to survive with minimum disruption in our lives.

The Aug. 10, 2020 derecho was another catastrophic weather event, only this time, there was little advance warning. The City of Cedar Rapids may never be the same after much of the tree canopy was destroyed. Straight-line winds have become a repeating occurrence on our property. The 2013 event did more damage than the derecho, yet in the latter electricity was out for four days. It took time to recover from this event, have a tree service remove broken limbs, and clean up debris. Everyone in the neighborhood had piles of firewood after the storm.

To what extent were the 2008 flood and the 2020 derecho made worse by climate change? In his essay on the 2008 flood, Eugene S. Takle summarizes where we are.

When rare and extreme weather events seem to increase in frequency, either locally or regionally, both statisticians and thoughtful lay people begin to wonder if something unusual is going on. They ask not only whether climate change was involved, but also — and more urgently — whether such extreme conditions will be repeated soon or nearby. The question is much more than academic…

Was Climate Change Involved by Eugene S. Takle. Published in A Watershed Year: Anatomy of the Iowa Floods of 2008, edited by Cornelia S. Mutel.

Our troubles as a society lie elsewhere, outside the rational thinking of scientists.

The lesson learned from these natural disasters is to be alert and pay attention to what one can’t control. The lesson applies to more than natural disasters.

Sixty years ago I did not foresee where we would arrive in our politics and society. The idea that corporations could and would spend countless fortunes to manipulate voters to support candidates who did not serve their best interests is mind-boggling. Yet here we are.

Everything is corrupt, including political office holders, news media, law enforcement, our judiciary, our distribution system, and an extraction economy that impoverishes people who remain out of plain sight. It is a harsh judgment, yet is increasingly and undeniably true. We may have been able to survive floods, derechos, and straight line winds, yet our biggest problem is one we made for ourselves.

The approaching danger to be addressed is one of our politics. Republicans controlled both chambers of the Iowa legislature and the governorship after the 2016 election. They used their majority to advance policies that serve interests which align with right-wing conservatives and business concerns. At the same time, 45 of 150 Iowa legislative races have candidates running unopposed this cycle. The apparent lack of interest in running for office is as much a problem as the Republican trifecta.

This year, because of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, the number of female voter registrations is up. It is hard to know what this means, other than that women who value the right to an abortion, to make their own health care decisions without intervention of politicians, are taking action by registering to vote for candidates who support that right. Whether this movement will persist after the Nov. 8, 2022 election is an open question.

The American political system is far from perfect. If we want to address the dangers of climate change in the form of extreme weather events, as we must, that political system is our only, best hope. We must all get more engaged than we have been.

Living in Society

Labor Day 2022

Tomatoes before processing.

Thank a union if you have today off work.

In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers, 11.6 percent of the workforce, were represented by a union according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is a small, yet mighty segment of the American people.

The flip side of this is 313.7 million Americans are not represented by a union. To me, that is the more significant number. Most of us have plenty of non-paid work to do.

I wrote about my relationship with unions in 2007.

I have been on just about every side of the union issue, beginning with my membership in what was then called the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America in 1971 (where I hold a retirement card). I worked at the University of Iowa while AFSCME unsuccessfully tried to organize us in the early ’80s, and supervised groups of teamsters from Local 238 in Cedar Rapids, and Local 142 in Philadelphia. In Philadelphia I negotiated the contract with the local business manager. My mechanics signed cards when I ran a trucking terminal near Chicago, and ultimately decided the teamsters union was not for them. Based on this experience, I know a bit about unions.

Fair Share Ten Years Later by Paul Deaton, Jan. 15, 2007.

If you believe unions are strong in 2022, some of them are. There are high profile news stories about organizing Amazon workers and Starbucks employees. Time Magazine reported last October the number of work stoppages over contract issues had doubled. Simple facts of the American economy emerging from the coronavirus pandemic — higher corporate profits, a Democratic president who supports organized labor, and a shortage of workers — have created a pro-labor sentiment. My advice is for workers to get what they can, while they can, as this environment may not endure once corporations determine how to cope with workforce changes.

Rick Moyle, executive director of the Hawkeye Area Labor Council AFL-CIO, wrote in this morning’s Cedar Rapids Gazette we should hold elected officials accountable.

The bottom line is that we can no longer allow our elected officials to say one thing on the campaign trail and do just the opposite once elected. They bank on people forgetting the statements and promises they have made. Working people can no longer afford to be duped into partisan rhetoric and hot button topics. We must come together and hold our elected officials accountable, regardless of party affiliation.

On Labor Day Hold Politicians Accountable by Rick Moyle, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sept. 5, 2022.

Ahead of Labor Day, AFL-CIO launched what it believes is the largest voter organizing drive in history to restore America’s promise. “All told, more than 100,000 volunteers will reach at least 7.7 million working people between now and Election Day,” according to an article at Iowa Labor News.

On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. Even though I retired during the pandemic, and its been many years since I carried a union card, I believe I’ll take the day off, work at home, and thank a union.

Living in Society

A Case for Bohannan

Coffee with Congressman Dave Loebsack, Feb. 22, 2020. Left to Right: Christina Bohannan, Dave Loebsack, Brad Kunkel, Elle Wyant, Paul Deaton. Photo Credit – David Leshtz.

I first met Christina Bohannan at a coffee shop in Iowa City, at my last political event before the coronavirus pandemic. My first impression was she was smart and engaged. As I’ve gotten to know her, she has proven to be a compassionate, knowledgeable leader, of the kind we need in the U.S. Congress. She will work hard to represent every resident of the First Congressional District. We should elect her on Nov. 8.

Republican incumbent Mariannette Miller-Meeks made the case for electing Bohannan by going off the deep end to adopt the crazy talk of today’s Republicans. Bohannan remains grounded and sensible.

Bohannan is a mother and a state representative. Like former Congressman Dave Loebsack was, Bohannan is a college professor. She is also a current colleague with former Congressman Jim Leach at the University of Iowa College of Law. She has both of their endorsements.

Bohannan is on the right side of issues. We’ve come to a place in society where rational arguments about specific policy positions will have little bearing on the 2022 midterm election. This election will be based, in large part, on visceral reactions people have had to the legacy of the Trump administration, including stacking the Supreme Court of the United States (ex. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned Roe v. Wade), attempts to overturn any and all government regulation of the economy (ex. Executive Order to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan), and cutting government budgets without fear or awareness of consequences (ex. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017).

Bohannan has plenty more in her campaign kitbag.

For further reading, Bohannan’s biography is on her website. Viewing a recent speech the Iowa State Fair will get readers up to speed on current policy positions. What else is there to say?

She is the Democrat in the race. In 2022, that’s what we need.

Living in Society

Responding to the Fringe

Woman Writing Letter

This is a reply to a letter of support for Brad Sherman in this week’s The Hometown Current. He is running against Elle Wyant in the Iowa House District 91 open seat.

Response to Kesterson Letter

I read with interest Kris Kesterson’s letter to the editor of The Hometown Current titled, “Brad Sherman – a true patriot.” Why doesn’t the author explain why he is a patriot instead of listing assertions that have long been discredited?

In a free country, Kesterson is entitled to her opinion. I hope there are additional letters in the newspaper laying out the reasons to support him or Elle Wyant, the Democratic candidate for House District 91.

What I see in this letter is a litany of radical, right-wing talking points. If Sherman believes or supports these things, he lies on the fringe of our society. Wyant would be the better legislator for her ability to represent all Iowans and bring focus to what’s most important: education, economic development, and equity.

As it stands, the letter informs us the candidate holds radical, fringe positions which have no place in the Iowa state house.

Living in Society

Toward Summer’s End

Wildflowers along the state park trail.

The appearance of tall, yellow wildflowers is a sign summer is ending. By the calendar there are three weeks of summer left, yet the Labor Day weekend marks the end of trips and vacations, and the beginning of school. For some, school already started.

I finished planting in the garden and focused on closing out the last vegetables. I preserved enough tomatoes, peppers, pickles and greens. All that remains is finishing the plots, clearing them, and in October planting garlic.

Perhaps as a closing to summer, President Joe Biden gave a speech last night. I gave it a full B grade, although it is definitely worth hearing. If readers are so inclined, here it is.

Happy last days of summer!


Global Warming is Real

Drought-stressed corn crop in Cedar County, Iowa, 2012.

2022 has provided evidence in plain sight of the consequences of burning fossil fuels. The Greenland ice sheet is melting and expected to raise global sea levels by a foot. Such melting is already in motion and even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere today, it would have no effect on this destruction. A melting Greenland ice sheet cools the Northern Atlantic Ocean, which in turn slows the Atlantic Gulf Stream circulation and could lead to climate disruption on a massive scale.

From the American West to Europe to China, rivers are drying up. Our oceans are warming, causing fish and water-bound mammals to migrate to cooler places, disrupting fishing stocks. The upper Midwest is home to the largest global concentration of field corn. Continued high temperatures and lack of rainfall are expected to reduce yields. At $6.73 a bushel, corn is now roughly 50% above its 10-year average price.

None of this is good news. It is the truth.

In part, we got ourselves into this situation by ignoring scientists about the dangers of global warming. Here’s some more truth: President Lyndon Johnson, in a Feb. 8, 1965 special message to Congress, warned about build-up of carbon dioxide that scientists recognize today as the primary contributor to global warming.

“Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.”

LBJ Presidential Library, speech on Feb. 8, 1965.

What’s a person to do?

There is little an individual can do. A solution will take governments addressing the physics of the issue at the highest level. It has become clear Republicans are the party of the fossil fuel industry and won’t take serious climate action. While some Democrats have fallen under the influence of fossil fuel interests and money, they were able to pass the Inflation Reduction Act which is the first legislation that addresses the climate crisis. We need more legislation to address the climate crisis, and that means electing more Democrats today.

The evidence of global warming is all around us. While everyone should get involved in what has become an obvious, global problem, the path forward in the United States is in retaining a Democratic controlled Congress and Executive Branch. No one wants to change their quality of life. However, life would be much better if we took action to control the changes caused by global warming by engaging in society.

Living in Society

Kevin Kinney’s Summer Barbecue

Inside State Senator Kevin Kinney’s barn in rural Johnson County. Photo Credit – Dominic Patafie.

The weather was perfect for a barbecue.

The first large political gathering in our new state senate district took place on Saturday, Aug. 27, in rural Oxford. Kevin Kinney is a full-time farmer seeking re-election to the senate after an incumbent Republican and he were mapped into the same new district by the state legislature. Kinney is running a strong campaign.

I volunteered to help with the event, arriving two hours before the starting time. The Kinney family had already done most of the set up, so I was able to take a walk around the farm and talk to the senator. The farm runs a cow-calf operation with 40 brood cows. We discussed the configuration of his corn and bean planter. I also asked some questions about the corn crop using this photo on my mobile device. Corn is drying out.

Field corn.

State Auditor Rob Sand was the featured guest. When he wasn’t speaking to the group, he socialized, took selfies with attendees, and distributed bumper stickers that said, “Bowhunter. State Auditor. Rob Sand Finds Bucks.” Lieutenant Governor candidate Eric Van Lancker was added to the speaker lineup. In addition to giving a short speech, he spent most of the event socializing with attendees. Both Sand and Van Lancker were present for the duration of the event.

My assigned duties were at the registration table where I greeted almost everyone who attended. Getting to know people is one of the reasons I attend political events, so it was a perfect assignment. A number of Johnson County Democrats I’ve known for decades came out. No one did a head count, yet I estimate 150 or so attendees.

Overflow parking with cattle at the Senator Kinney Summer Barbecue Bash, Aug. 27, 2022.

By all accounts, the food was good. Being mostly vegetarian, I skipped the meal except for a couple of slices of watermelon and a cookie. There was plenty to eat. After the speeches and meal were finished, people lingered while drinking beverages from large coolers and talking in groups. It was the kind of event that is becoming increasingly rare in Iowa Democratic politics. As I mentioned to people when they signed in, it was a great day for it.

If re-elected, Kevin Kinney would be the only Democratic, full-time farmer in the Iowa Senate.